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Grandma's restaurant near Miller Hill Mall to reopen Monday

After six weeks of repairs and flood cleanup, Grandma's Miller Hill restaurant will reopen at 11 a.m. Monday with a more upscale look. While interior work is wrapping up, an exterior makeover that's just beginning will be completed in the fall, o...

Grandma's interior
The interior of the Grandma's Restaurant at Miller Hill was updated after the June 20 flood filled the building with more than 2 feet of water. All of the flooring and food-service equipment was replaced. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

After six weeks of repairs and flood cleanup, Grandma's Miller Hill restaurant will reopen at 11 a.m. Monday with a more upscale look.

While interior work is wrapping up, an exterior makeover that's just beginning will be completed in the fall, officials said.

Grandma's Restaurant Co. had no flood insurance on the eatery, which was forced to close because of extensive flood damage. Moreover, the Duluth-based company has received no federal or state assistance to cover the estimated $250,000 in damage and lost inventory and sales, said Tony Boen, Grandma's regional manager.

But the company is stepping up to help other flood victims.

Restaurant officials will announce today that for at least two weeks, it will donate 10 percent of the restaurant's food sales to the Twin Ports Region Long-Term Relief Fund, coordinated by the United Way of Greater Duluth.

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"A lot of people were hit a lot harder than us," Boen said.

Because of the company's own experience recovering from the flood, it understands the need to help out members of the community who, like Grandma's, had no flood insurance or federal assistance, company President Brian Daugherty said in a statement.

The restaurant was among the businesses in the Miller Hill Mall area hardest hit by the flood. The 10-inch deluge on June 19-20 left about three feet of water inside and outside the restaurant at 2202 Maple Grove Road in Duluth.

Before the water receded, Boen had to use a canoe to get to the restaurant, paddling across a flooded parking lot that extended to the former Kmart store along Maple Grove Road.

The images of Grandma's Miller Hill restaurant stranded in the middle of the flooded parking lot have been blamed for keeping tourists away from Duluth. Seeing the image on the Internet or in the media, they mistakenly assumed the flooded restaurant was in Canal Park and thought the popular tourist area was under water.

That misconception flourished, prompting damage control by the city and the local tourism industry to get the word out that Duluth was open for business.

Meanwhile, cleanup was under way at the flooded Grandma's Restaurant near Miller Hill Mall. When the water receded, many of its 46 employees showed up, helping to clear out the furniture, food and liquor and other contents and to clean and sanitize what they could. They even dismantled the hardwood flooring before trades people arrived.

The ruined booths and table chairs were discarded. Most of the kitchen equipment and refrigeration systems had to go. Food was spoiled. But the bar was saved, though its foot rails had to be replaced. The tall bar stools were undamaged because they had been put on top of the bar for the night.

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"Any wall inside of the building had to go down to the studs to clean and sanitize what was left," Bill Humes, the restaurant's general manager, said.

The subfloor, found in questionable condition, was replaced. New wiring was installed. Minnesota Power used the opportunity to change the transformer serving the building, a task it wanted to do for years, Humes said.

When it was time for the finishing work, company officials saw a chance to do something different. So they changed the color scheme from mainly green to browns and tans, most notably in the new booths and the golden oak panels installed on the lower walls. Instead of wood flooring, they put in a ceramic tile floor.

The dark green tin ceiling and green upper molding remains, however, along with its antique dΓ©cor on the walls, though there's less of it for a cleaner, less cluttered look, Humes said.

"We expected the worst and were pleased it turned out much better than we thought," said Boen, calling the tradespeople who worked on the building "top-notch."

The restaurant's exterior received minor damage from the big June flood. But company officials thought they would spruce up the outside as well and increase its visibility. Besides painting a fresh yellow, red and black color scheme, they will add a parapet, new red steel roof and expand the outdoor seating. The parking lot already has gotten new blacktop.

Some employees helped throughout the flood cleanup, while others were temporarily assigned to other Grandma's restaurants, Hume said.

All but one will be back on the job when the restaurant reopens next week, he said.

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